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 I write and edit for Red Tent Living, an online magazine and gathering place for women living intentionally and reframing femininity. Read more of me here.

2016: An ode to tattoos, half marathons, food fights, and continuing to figure out the story

2016: An ode to tattoos, half marathons, food fights, and continuing to figure out the story

I remember the countdown last year. I remember feeling so very far away from the life I'd imagined just 12 months earlier. As 2016 rang in, I remember reciting to myself, "Be brave. Keep your eyes and your heart open, because anything could happen this year."



january retreat

I was less than enthused about a middle school retreat right at the start of January. I knew what awaited me--lack of sleep, embarrassing games, and bad camp food. But I also knew these girls mattered to me...I'd been given a unique opportunity to speak into their lives, and there was no way I was going to miss it.

What I never anticipated was that the weekend I joined the middle school youth group at Spring Hill winter camp would be the same weekend my ex-fiancé brought his middle school youth group to Spring Hill winter camp.

Of all the weekends.

6 months of living in the same town with no sightings or run-ins and now we were thrust into sharing a dining hall and waging battle via camp broomball tournament. Not what I pictured.

We talked that weekend. Face to face for the first time. It christened what has been an admittedly anxious dynamic for me during the last year: a series of unexpected run-ins in our small town, attempting to find new ground to interact and then realizing we still can't. In so many ways, Aaron is exactly who I remember, and he is someone else too. The same holds true for me--who he knew, and someone else. 

I don't have a grasp on the threads of this story--why it's part of my life, why I'm still working it through. Most days I fight to just accept and honor that Aaron and I carry very separate traumas and sorrow and brokenness. And we both carry goodness too. It all matters. It all belongs. And God is good enough for each of us. I still don't know how, completely, but he is.

I'm grateful for January because it got me started on asking an important question: "What is good for your heart?" 

At our worst, I fulfilled a pretty toxic role with Aaron: swallowing a lot of needs because I didn't want to disrupt a boat that already felt way too tumultuous.  I ignored what my self required because I craved security through connection. Being connected became more important than being well. There have been moments this year where that has absolutely still felt true. But overall, I am getting a lot better at choosing wellness. I'm getting better at choosing something because I know it is the kindest thing I could do for myself, even if it feels scary and even if it is hard. And I think that is a beautiful thing.


I remember writing the conclusion to Will I Break? wondering if this piece will ever see the light of day, anxious about what my amazing set of readers would think of it. It's the story of my experience in college--waking up to myself and what I really love, tasting disappointment, brushing up against love, believing I could do things I never imagined possible, losing things I never thought I'd lose. It has been a particular sweet piece of writing for the last year, and I wonder if it is a set of experiences I will live out over and over again as life continues to expand.

I've been working on this manuscript for a long time, but something about being single and starting over again pushed me into a space that poignantly connected with my 21 year old self. I think that shines through in a lot of the chapters.

I'm grateful for February, because it started me on actively delighting in that younger part of my self again, dreaming for her again. Someday, I'll find an agent and a publisher, and you will get to dream with that part of me too. 


The spring blurs together a bit, but as March closed and April opened, I had the chance to take my manuscript to the Festival of Faith and Writing. In addition to brilliant speakers and tons of affirmation about why I love to write and how it connects me to my soul, I had a major victory in conquering introverted hell and pitching my book to the Zondervan acquisitions editor. I loved seeing the potential she saw in my writing, and her advice for how to get an agent before navigating the publishing process has been a bit of a compass for me this last year. It also got me thinking about writing in ways that generate life and bring meaning to readers. My experiences don't matter unless they ring true to the universal ache we all carry.

I'm grateful for March because it was the first time I started calling myself a writer instead of a copywriter and I've let that change stick.


"Hey, Katy. Are you coming back to the office?"

"Hey Tim, I actually left early because my tattoo artist had an opening and I am currently being pierced rapidly by a needle,"

"Of all the things you could have said, that is probably what I least expected to hear. Can't wait to see it on Monday." 

For my 27th birthday, Natalie, my best friend from college, met me outside my office to go to the tattoo parlor and boldly sit next to me while I had a massive Greek word inked onto my arm. Completely epic.

The word--χαίρειν--translates to mean "you are welcome and good." I chose it as a blessing for myself and an invitation for every person in my life. I know what it looks like to hold myself in judgement or with doubt and contempt, but what I long to communicate is that no matter who you are, what you've done, what you carry or fear, you belong here and you are deeply loved and accepted. 

I'm grateful for April, because I decided what my life is going to be about and I chose to mark myself with some words to help me remember.


katy smile

May held so many favorite memories--a beer dinner with work friends, an amazing family trip to Mackinac Island, lots of reading with fun drinks by the pool. I loved it because summer finally felt right. The image I picked is from tasting a flight of beers at Perrin's with friends. I picked it because the first time I saw that picture, I thought to myself, "Oh! I look like me again." It had been such a long year, and finally my eyes had started sparkling again when I smile.

I'm grateful for May because it reminded me that my life is beautiful, and I am going to be ok. 


say yes

This bottle arrived from North Carolina one year to the week after the break up. Mercy was one of multiple friends who actively remembered me that week, leaving me completely stunned at how loved and surrounded I am. I pulled a new invitation from Mercy every week that June of something to be sure to say "yes!" to. "Letting peace rule your heart." "Wearing a midriff." "Forgiveness." "A double shot of espresso with 1 pump mocha and 1 pump raspberry." "Writing a short story."

And I did ALL of them, EVEN the midriff ;)

I'm grateful for June, because it reminded me I am so loved.


If you followed my summer, you know it included LOTS of running. Running became a grounding practice, reminding me that I am strong and persistent, that I have limits, that I can fail and try again. It was like an exhausting, invigorating, gorgeous microcosm of life experienced in 1-2 hour spurts along Lake Maccatawa. This picture  is one of my favorites because my friend Tracy and I invited my sisters to share that training space with us in a fun and playful way. We ran a color 5k, even though the girls weren't sure they could do it. We made it to the end and partied together and now we share the memory together. 

I am grateful for July and continuing to build relationship with my sisters as we all come into our own.


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Sometimes the year brings events you never anticipated--like your lifelong friend entering emergency labor. Felt so grateful to be nearby as twins Arthur and Josiah were born, both of whom are completely perfect and beautiful. Grabbed a picture with their Mom, who walked the whole experience with grace and courage.

This August, I also started graduate school. The choice was big not only for the commitment, but also for the over-planner in me, who sometimes gets paralyzed with the options and wondering if I am making the right one. Am I choosing the path that really meets my full potential? What I finally decided was that I love my life now, and I want school to be a part of it. I have permission to figure the rest out later.

Given the landscape of the last year, I knew I needed seminary instead of a MLit program like I had always thought I would pursue. My faith doesn't fit in the frame that it once did, and I realized that if God and I are going to make it, then we are going to need to dig deeper. I need to meet some theologians I feel more at home with. 

I've craved every single second of theology reading, paper writing, class discussion and classmate bonding that has happened. Which is good news, because pursuing a Masters part-time equates to like 6 years of school.

I am grateful for August because it held a friendship that has weathered continents and decades and it reacquainted me with how much I love to learn. I wrote a paper this month on what I believe it means to be human, and I knew why I believed every sentence I wrote and that was an experience I will always cherish.


half marathon

This. THIS. WAS. CRAZY. I ran a half-marathon in Chicago. And I absolutely never would have made it without Tracy. At Mile 11, I straight up felt my legs say, "NOPE!" Tracy then set the pace for me, helping me conquer those last two miles, pushing me towards a finish line I had trained so hard for. I have never experienced the blend of relief, triumph, and joy that I found when we crossed that finish line at 2 hours and 4 minutes...made all the more epic by a pronounced desire for a long shower and pancakes. Both of which were just as amazing as I had imagined they would be.

red tent dinner

And I've already written about this dinner. But it was a total highlight of my fall. I loved the friendships that were deepened and birthed that night.

I am grateful for September, and doing brave things together. 


October gets a whole freaking gallery. I am of the opinion that October is the best month. At least up North. Perfect leaves, lots of coffee, scarves, outdoor walks--all things I love. This October, I had an amazing weekend with just me an my grandmother and a long desired trip with a sweet friend to explore her life in Boston. Both trips held tender and treasured conversations, and both made the list of best memories. Boston left me curious if I'll ever find myself walking the hall of an ivy league wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. ;) Also, the surprise lunch with Mercy and her husband Sam blew the Boston trip out of the water. 


I don't know if you saw our Thanksgiving Video, but I work with the best people. This project was so much fun. Work isn't always easy, but I love growing in a space with people I respect and enjoy. I work with friends, and I know I am lucky.

I am grateful for November because deep down, we all carry a dream to engage in an epic food fight.


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I made it. I'm sitting here sipping coffee and struck by all the year has carried. This month I wore a whole lot of dresses as I raised awareness for fighting human trafficking. I navigated a Christmas that  held tender memories as my family anticipates a move that will shift what home means once again. I finished my first semester, looking to what comes next and helping one of my professors research for his next book. I said "yes" to standing in a friend's wedding next fall, I said "yes" to planning a friend's baby shower, and I said "yes" to speaking at a writer's conference. 

2016, you were so necessary for me. So filled with growth and waking up again. And 2017, you and I are going to kick it. I'm absolutely positive. 
An Open Letter to My Representative

An Open Letter to My Representative

On being enough

On being enough